Vitamin D status in pregnancy improves childhood neurodevelopment

There is a clear link between maternal Vitamin D status and the development of gross- and fine motor skills and social skills in children. It is the first time researchers have investigated the link between maternal vitamin D deficiency and suboptimal neurodevelopment in the first years of life.1

Until now, the link between oily fish intake and childhood neurodevelopment was attributed to the effects of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in fish. This time, the Vitamin D content of oily fish was the focus of investigation.

A total of 7065 mother-child pairs from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) were studied, using data for both serum total 25(OH)D concentration in pregnancy and at least one measure of offspring neurodevelopment.

After adjustment for potential confounders, children born to Vitamin-D deficient mothers (serum 25(OH)D of <50.0 nmol/L) were more likely to have sub-optimal gross-motor and fine-motor skills at 30 months, and sub-optimal social development scores at 42 months than children born to Vitamin D sufficient mothers (≥50.0 nmol/L).

Although the effect and impact sizes were relatively small, researchers considered the findings to be biologically meaningful. Interestingly, they uncovered no associations between maternal Vitamin D status and other outcomes, such as IQ and reading ability.

This research was prompted by the link between maternal consumption of foods high in Vitamin D, like oily fish, and its impact on neurodevelopment. In observational studies, maternal intake of fish or seafood in pregnancy was positively associated with cognitive scores in their babies. Meantime, children whose mothers ate oily fish in early pregnancy had a reduced risk of hyperactivity compared to those whose mothers did not.2

The first four years of a child's life are very important for their neurodevelopment on multiple levels, from social development to motor skills, and any measures we can uncover to ensure optimal development are welcome.


  1. Darling, Andrea L., et al. "Association between maternal vitamin D status in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood: Results from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)." British Journal of Nutrition 117.12 (2017): 1682-1692.
  2. Gale CR, Robinson SM, Godfrey KM, et al. Oily fish intake during pregnancy - association with lower hyperactivity but not with higher full-scale IQ in offspring. J Child Psychol Psyc. 2008; 49:1061-1068.

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